1-10: 3 Little Mistakes

Napoleons fallAssignment 10: 3 Little Mistakes

Napoleon’s Empire Collapses

Part 1 of 1: The major reasons or events of Napoleon’s fall are contained within the left hand side of the column chart. Determine the effect that corresponds to the correct cause. Make sure you turn both sides of the chart (both the cause and effect).


1. Ordered a blockade to prevent trade and communication between Great Britain and other European nations
2. Sent an army to invade Portugal and began the Peninsular War
3. In June 1812, invaded Russia with his Grand Army
4. Entered Moscow on September 14, 1812, and stayed in the ruined city for five weeks
5. Raised another army and fought the Battle of Leipzig or Battle of Nations
6. Escaped Elba, reclaimed title of emperor, and fought Battle of Waterloo



  • European armies defeated French forces and ended Napoleon’s last bid for power.
  • It weakened economies of France and other lands under Napoleon’s control more than it damaged Britain.
  • Coalition defeated inexperienced French army; Napoleon’s empire crumbled.
  • Unable to advance further, French soldiers retreated; all but 10,000 died of exhaustion, hunger, and the cold.
  • Desperate French soldiers deserted in search of food because of Russian scorched earth policy.
  • Losses of 300,000 soldiers weakened French Empire; inflamed nationalistic feelings encouraged conquered peoples to turn against French.

Part 2 of 2: Review the notes below.

  • The Continental System, 1806-1812

o   With the invasion of Britain out of the question, Napoleon tried a different kind of warfare against Britain. The aim of the Berlin Decrees was to force Britain to come to terms by destroying her trade with Continental Europe. The blockade resulted in an immediate fall in the quantity of goods imported into and exported out of Britain. One state Portugal, refused to join it. Napoleon decided to force it to join. In 1808 French armies overrun Spain and Portugal and occupied Madrid and Lisbon.

  • Rebellion in Spain – The Peninsular War, 1808-1814

o   But the invasion of Portugal soon led to unexpected problems for Napoleon. The Portuguese and the Spaniards hated French rule over their country. Most Spaniards felt offended when Napoleon occupied Madrid, removed their King Charles IV and put his brother Joseph in his place. In 1808 the Spaniards rebelled against the French and began a guerrilla war against them. The French went to great lengths to crush the Spanish rebellion. Britain quickly joined in the fighting to help the Portuguese. Britain sent troops under General Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) to fight in the Peninsular War. For Napoleon this war became known as the Spanish Ulcer for he had to keep a large French army of 30,000 soldiers tied down in Spain.

  • The Russian Campaign, 1812

o   The Continental System created similar problems for Napoleon with Russia. In 1811 the Czar decided to leave the system for it was damaging Russia’s trade. He opened his ports to British ships. Napoleon decided to force Czar Alexander back to the system. In the summer of 1812 he invaded Russia from Poland with the Grand Army of 600,000 men. The Russian armies retreated before the French army. Napoleon won the Battle of Borodino and entered Moscow in September. It looks like another triumph for Napoleon, but it was not to be. What went wrong? Problems began as soon as the Grand Army entered Russia. The Russians burned own whole fields and villages to stop the French from finding food (scorched earth policy). When the French entered Moscow, they found a deserted city. The Czar ordered the city to be burned so that the French would not use it as shelter for the winter. With the first cold weather Napoleon ordered the army to retreat to Poland. During the retreat more than half the French army died of the freezing winter weather. A further 200,000 were taken prisoner by the Russians, half of them died in captivity.

  • Exile at Elba, 1814-1815

o   Napoleon surrendered in April. He was exiled on the island of Elba but left with the title of Emperor. There he soon became restless and unhappy. When he heard that Louis XVIII was becoming unpopular, he decided to return to France. In March 1815 he secretly sailed from Elba and landed in France. King Louis fled before Napoleon entered Paris, welcomed by cheering crowds shouting ‘Vive l’Empeurer’.

  • The Hundred Days, 1815

o   Napoleon’s second empire lasted only 95 days. The allies put together six armies to crush him. Napoleon marched with 120,000 men to meet them in Belgium. There he beat the Prussians and attacked the British army at the Battle of Waterloo, near Brussels. But the British, led by the Duke of Wellington resisted his attacks until the Prussians returned and joined in the fighting. Napoleon left the battlefield and returned to Paris. There he abdicated for the second time.

  • Exile at St Elena, 1815-1821

o   Napoleon hoped that the British would allow him to live in England. But the British had other plans for him. They took him to the British island of St Helena in the South Atlantic, from where he could never escape. There he spent the rest of his life in captivity writing his memoirs. He died there of stomach cancer in May 1821.




PRIMARY SOURCE  Read the following primary source and answer the questions that follow.

‘My Brother, the magnificent town of Moscow no longer exists. Rostopochin has had it burned….The fires seem to have stopped at last. Three quarters of the houses have been burned: only a quarter are left standing. This is an atrocious and meaningless act. Was it done with the intention of depriving us of supplies? But these supplies were in the cellars, where the fire could not reach them. In any case, how could anyone destroy one of the loveliest cities in the world – the work of centuries – for such a wretched purpose? If I had supposed that such things had been done by your Majesty’s orders, I should not write to you this letter: but with your principles, your heart, the soundness of your ideas, it is, I think, impossible that you should have authorized such excesses, unworthy as they are of a great sovereign and a great nation.

I made war on your Majesty without rancor; a note from you, before or after the last battle, would have cut short by expedition, and I should have given up the advantage of entering Moscow. If your Majesty still feels any of the old friendliness towards me, you will take this letter in good part.’

Source: Part of a letter written by Napoleon to Russian Czar



  1. Give the year and the place when this letter was written.
  2. Who was the Czar to whom this letter was written?
  3. What is the subject matter of this letter?
  4. Suggest two reasons why Napoleon wrote this letter.
  5. Explain what Napoleon meant when he wrote of the old friendliness (line 11)?
  6. How is the event described in the source known by history?
  7. What action was forced upon Napoleon by the burning of Moscow, and why?
  8. Was this action successful or not? Give reasons for your answer.
  9. Show how this expedition, together with other factors, brought about Napoleon’s downfall.